How COVID-19 Impacted the Physician Staffing Market

Jim Fitzgibbon

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the healthcare field in ways we’re still learning about. However, when it comes to the physician staffing market, things have grown even more challenging. What are the dynamics driving physician demand these days and what will early 2021 look like?

Physician Recruiting and Retention Amid COVID

The underlying factors surrounding physician shortages remain the same:

  • An aging Baby Boomer population
  • Widespread chronic illness
  • High number of practicing physicians reaching retirement age
  • Changes in how physicians’ practice (including telemedicine)
  • The consumerization of healthcare

Even before COVID-19, the forecasts showed a shortfall of 122,000 doctors by 2032 and 1.1 million RN’s by 2022. The pandemic placed unprecedented strains on a healthcare paradigm already struggling to meet demands. At the same time, our ERs were being overrun with the worried well and the truly sick in the spring of 2020, hospital volumes on money generating elective procedures declined, causing hospital earnings to fall by 174%. By June 2020, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that 97% of physicians in small private practices felt negative financial effects from COVID-19. We’ve seen practices furloughing staff, closing their doors, and more early physician retirements as a result of the virus.

How do all these trends impact physician recruiting and retention? The geographic areas of the country emerging as the latest COVID hot spots are desperately looking for new providers not only to meet the demand but also to keep their existing teams from burning out. Alternatively, those regions with a smaller COVID surge are experiencing lower patient volumes as “customers” are still leery of scheduling preventative care like colonoscopies and mammograms as well as elective surgeries. Another impact is the surge in telemedicine for routine care. Clinical teams today need not only bedside manner, but “webside” manner as virtual healthcare visits have normalized during COVID.

All of these trends have forced providers in all categories to form new partnerships with staffing agencies. COVID-19 has put enormous pressure on hospitals seeking assistance as coronavirus cases surged.

How Staffing Agencies Help Hospitals Cope with COVID

The rapid need for more providers has strengthened the relationship between healthcare providers and their staffing agency vendors. There’s been an unprecedented surge in demand for travel nurses and locum tenens as hospitals scramble to staff up for fall cold and flu season.

Conversely, earlier in the year, the cancellations of elective surgeries reduced the demand for anesthesiologists and surgeons. However, according to a report from Capstone Headwaters, we’ve seen 56% of healthcare providers show a return of at least half or more of their elective surgery patients. This will create staffing issues in early 2021 as a new wave of “catch up” elective surgeries are predicted to occur.

In the coming years, staffing agencies will continue to be a necessity to help hospitals keep up with patient demand. Companies like MedSource Consultants increase the efficiency of these organizations by providing locum tenens and travel nurses, as well as sourcing full-time clinical professionals to help these organizations cope. Healthcare organizations of all sizes will continue to rely heavily on the networks these experienced resources provide.

If your clinical teams are struggling to meet demand, or if you’re looking for locum tenens to alleviate burnout among your staff, it’s time to talk with the team at MedSource Consultants. We are your trusted provider of healthcare professionals and are standing by to take your call.